Nothing Important Happened Today

Essentially I’m posting to tell you I won’t be posting today.  I know, doesn’t make a lot of sense.  But I’ve been up late trying to get my current novel WIP done by my self-imposed deadline.

I promise a full post next week–an ethics post, at that.  

See you then!

~Marina

P.S.  Bonus points for anyone who knows what spec show has an episode entitled “Nothing Important Happened Today.” No cheating.  I have eyes in the back of the Internet.

P.P.S.  Happy Leap Day!  Did you remember to wear yellow and blue?

WotF Q4

I know it’s old news, but the full results for Q4 of the WotF contest have finally been posted: http://www.writersofthefuture.com/node/713

Congrats again, everyone!

~Marina

Absolute Visions Anthology

Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

Just a little release-oriented news today.

Absolute Visions, the anthology in which my first published illustration appears, is now available for purchase!

If you’d like to see my full illustration (I haven’t seen it yet, but what appears in the anthology is probably a cropped version) you can head on over to my DA page for a peek. 

~Marina

Please Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Cover

Ahhhhh!  Wednesday again?  Sheesh.

Today we are going to discuss the mysterious case of the phantom arms.

I’m in the middle of reading Endymion, the sequel to Dan Simmions’ Hyperion duo. 

The cover art for all four books (Endymion is also a duo) was originally done by Gary Ruddell.  All four are attractive, but there’s one issue I’ve had with them from the start.

For those of you who haven’t read the series, the covers each display the Shrike–a razor-covered, murderous entity from the future.  The creature is incredibly large, dense, and has four arms.

Here’s the Barns and Noble listing, so you can see the first cover for yourself: Dan Simmons’ Hyperion

You’ll notice the Shrike on the cover sports two arms.

Now, the mistake is perfectly understandable on the artist’s part.  Often artists only get an excerpt of the text for reference, and the Shrike’s four arms come up a lot less than its bladed exterior.

But how did the editor miss that?  And Dan Simmons? 

More importantly, how did they miss it for three books?  Only the fourth cover displays a properly armed Shrike.

I looked for a bit of background that might explain the flub, but I couldn’t find much.  The only mentions of it online come from fans (that I could find.  I’ll admit to only a cursory search.  If you’ve got a link for an author, publisher, artist, or editor’s article, let me know).  One website declared the Shrike switches between two and four arms in the books, but as far as I can tell that’s incorrect.  I’m almost to the end of Endymion and the Shrike has yet to mysteriously lose limbs.

I’ve been pondering this mistake since I started the series.  Wondering, whyHow?

But it turns out this kind of mistake makes it onto bookshelves more often than I thought. 

Today I was alerted to this incident (Thank you, Rebecca Birch).  The cover is on a romance novel, and it also involves the wrong number of limbs:  Castles in the Air, by Christina Dodd

Have you noticed any strange cover flubs?  Please share!

~Marina

P.S. Just won another hard-copy book (from Tor.com) because of twitter.

Need a Better Way to Edit?

Happy Wacky Wednesday. 

If you’re like me, you have trouble performing organized edits on long pieces.  I tend to jump around a lot.  And I’m always afraid I’ll cut something important out of a dead scene and forget to put it back in somewhere else, or that I’ll make changes that create inconsistencies that will remain overlooked, etc.

It’s not the most effective process.  So, I’m always on the lookout for ways to edit more efficiently.

Recently I found this step by step guide for a one-pass, total edit from Holly Lisle.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I thought I’d share because it looks promising:

One-Pass Manuscript Revision: First Draft to Last in One Cycle 

Hope you find it helpful.

~Marina

73/100

“Writerly” Much? Don’t be this Guy

For today I have a nice little anecdote about what it means to be a writer versus wanting to be “writerly.”  I’ve been sitting on this story for about nine months because I couldn’t quite figure out in what context I should present it. 

Recently there was a thread on the Absolute Write forums that discussed the differences between loving writing and loving the idea of being a writer (I posted a summary of this incident in that thread).  This story is the perfect illustration of the differences, I think. 

I hope you find the story as amusing as I found the experience baffling. 

Sometimes I go to a coffee shop to write. When I’m there I’m working. One day I met another writer there–he went on and on and on and on about writing, made a big show of having his laptop out and his blank word file open and his nice little notebook at his side. I’d say we had a long conversation about writing, but really it was a lot of him gushing about how being writers put us on this “other intellectual level” and me politely nodding.

Of course, he changed his tune a little when I told him I write science fiction. That was so plebian of me.  Never mind that many scientists and engineers point to science fiction as their inspiration for entering the field.  Oh no, writing about the future was just so passé.  

After insulting my chosen genre for a little bit, we moved on to how I approach writing.  He really changed his tune when I told him I look at writing as a job, that I approach it in a business manner.

You know what he said after that?  “When people start being business minded they forget about families and grandchildren.”

Say what? 

He was of the opinion that people who are professionals are all selfish, greedy, and out to crush the little guy.  Talk about stereotyping.  And this comment came after a long speech about how being a writer made him more open minded.

I told him I wanted to sell a lot of books to reach a large audience.  He said, “But not too many books, right?  Like, you don’t want Oprah to endorse your book or anything?”

I fail to see how someone recommending a book and promoting literacy is a bad thing.

Then he went on and on about sustainability.  Publishers (not just the Big Six–I’m not even sure he knows there’s a Big Six) were all evil corporations who didn’t care about trees.  That’s why he was going to publish his own books by hand, because he cared about the paper and they didn’t (he was still using mass-produced paper, mind you).  I was completely confused as to how his use of paper was better than theirs, but he insisted it was.  Then he mentioned how he was proud of our library for installing solar panels.

Yeah, those solar panels are great.  And guess what?  My husband’s business help put them there.  If there weren’t people around who were business-minded there wouldn’t be things like solar panels.

He completely failed to see how there wouldn’t even be a coffee shop for him to sit pontificating in if someone somewhere wasn’t being “business minded.”  How the business part of sustainable business practices was just as important as the rest. 

I asked him if he’d submitted anything.  He said no.  I asked him what he’d written.  He said a (note the singular) book of poems.  How long had it taken him?  “Years,” he proudly proclaimed.

And those are just some of the highlights.  This conversation was weird, believe me.

Eventually I had to stop him (after he asked me if I was worried Duotrope might steal my copyright I just couldn’t take it anymore) and politely informed him that I only had another hour and I really had to get my word count in. He grudgingly left me alone, and when I left the shop he had a game open next to his blank page.

In the two hours I was there I wrote 2,000 words. He wrote zero.

True story.

I’m biased, but which of us do you think enjoys writing and which enjoys the idea of being writerly?

Writers write.  Writers who want to be read research the industry and copyright law.  They understand professionalism.  Real writers are essentially the opposite of this man.

And I’m still trying to decided if this guy was crazier than the dentist who told me there was a government conspiracy to hide a twelfth planet in our solar system with intelligent life on it (yeah, I know, if you count poor Pluto we’re still missing ten and eleven–not sure what happened to those).  But that’s another story.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

 ~Marina

P.S.  He also wanted to move out of the country and into a big city because he heard it was a “green city.”  Hu?  A green city is an oxymoron, man.  I’m all for practices that protect our environment, and I assure you moving into a big industrial center is not one of them.

71/100

A Business Ethics Tie In: Reviews, Anyone?

If you frequent very many writing related websites or forums, you’ll know there’s been a bit of hubbub recently over reviews.  Mainly over writers and agents and publishers either responding to reviews inappropriately, or writing posts on how a reviewer should review, or stating how reviewers should feel responsible (read: guilty) for any direct impact their review might have on an author’s sales.

This behavior is not new.  People behave badly when they feel they’ve been slighted.  I’m sure we’ve all failed to censor ourselves–especially on the internet–at some point or another when a stranger pushed our buttons.  No, it’s not ok, but nor is it something worthy of a black mark if it happens on rare occasion.  As long as it’s happening away from your very public professional life.  Because, when it comes to business, people expect professionalism, and they should get it.

I’m not here to rail against any one individual in the publishing industry who I believe has behaved inappropriately.  That’s why you won’t find any links in this post.  I’m here to talk about it more generally.

Some of the recent problems could have been easily avoided if the individuals had some sort of background in business ethics.  One repeated sentiment is that bad reviews hurt sales, so reviewers who give “negative” reviews should feel responsible for taking money out of an author’s pocket.

Hold on.  If money is making it into an author’s pocket it has to come from somewhere.  It has to come out of someone else’s pocket.  It’s someone else’s hard-earned money before it’s the authors.

And that person–consumer, reader, fan–has every right to hear other’s honest opinions on the book, then to choose to buy the book or not based on the information they have.

Asking a reviewer to slant their review in the author’s favor (out of guilt) is asking them to lie.  As an editor, asking an author to favorably review other books put out by your publishing house just because is asking them to lie (note this is different than getting reviews and blurbs in-house in general).  Asking people who like your book to drown out a bad review with a bunch of new, good reviews, is asking them to hide the truth–which is as bad as a lie.  All of these requests are the same as flat out asking someone to be a shill (Edit: see my previous business ethics post if you need a definition for shill).

Really, what the above sort of statement about “hurting sales” indicates is that the author believes they are more important than their customers.  That it is ok to trick someone into spending money on a product they might not want, because it is more important that the author not lose a sale.

I saw this sort of behavior referred to as “tacky” on a forum.  It’s not just tacky, it’s unethical.

The next thing I have a problem with is what some of them consider a “negative” review.  Everything from a three-star no-comment Amazon review, to a two column newspaper spread with a “tone,” to a flat out manifesto against the author seems to count.   Not all negativity is created equal, and some of what’s lumped in with the clearly negative only seems to count because it can’t be classified as glowing.

And it’s these middle-of-the-road, very fair, well thought out, but not glowing reviews that I’m seeing most often attacked.  Perhaps because the author is more inclined to feel that this sort of review is a discussion (whereas a review that’s clearly bad-bad-bad can just be written off with “that person is angry at the world”).  A review is not a discussion.  It is a statement of opinion, and the good ones provide rational support for their opinion.  This does not mean an author can argue against their opinion.  It’s an opinion–subjective–and not something that’s bound to change because the author (or publisher, or agent) says it should.  Like with critiques, the only appropriate response is thank you (if you give one at all, reviews require no comment).

If whining about a fair review and asking people to lie so the author won’t lose money isn’t enough, or seems baffling, the next point might explain a lot.

We all know that a lot of writers (I could go bigger and even claim artists in general) have delicate egos.  Egos that can be hugely inflated, which means they whither at the slightest pin-prick.  Some people just can’t handle the idea that a random individual didn’t like their work.  That someone found fault with their baby (yes, I have an issue with people referring to their work as babies.  But that’s another discussion).  After all, the work was good enough to get published, which means it must be golden.

If the work is golden, why is it getting bad reviews?  Ah, of course, there has to be an explanation outside of the text.  Not just outside, but totally unrelated to the text.

So then, what do these poorly-behaving industry professionals blame?  Not fault in the work.

Who do they blame?  Not unsatisfied customers, oh no.

They blame unpublished writers and people who personally hold a grudge against the author/editor/publishing house/agent.

Now, I’m not going to say jealousy and bad blood have never birthed unfavorable reviews.  They have.  But that type of reviewer is easier to spot than a shill.  Has there been a sudden influx of one stars on a three-to-four star book, perhaps with really strange comments that clearly indicate the reviewer hasn’t even seen the text?  Well, there you go: anti-shill aboard.  Yes, anti-shills are just as unethical as regular shills.  And some people might say they’re worse, because they’re mean.  (And yes, there is a more technical term for when rival businesses are involved in bad-mouthing competitors, I’ll try to cover that later.)

Just like a regular shill, you should avoid becoming an anti-shill at all costs.  When you review a book the only ethical thing to review is the contents of the book.  Not an author’s politics.  Not an editor’s feelings towards your work (favorable or otherwise).  Nothing but what’s between the covers (the covers themselves are also fair game).

Anyone who reads on a regular basis is bound to come across a book they don’t like.  I think I usually read (or don’t finish reading) one a year I think is worthy of throwing in the waste bin (though I don’t.  I mean, it’s a book).  But for every one I dislike that much, there are at least ten I like to some degree.

Since I’m an unpublished writer, shouldn’t that mean that I dislike all those published books because I’m so darn jealous?  And that every time I review a book it should be full of subtle slights, and harsh digs, and subliminal messages about how great I am, and– ok, I can’t even go on.  The idea that all negative reviews are generated by jealous hopefuls or by grudge wielding crazies is so out there I can’t even imagine how someone argues rationally for it.

Writers love to read.  Which means they like many things they read.  Which means they want the writers they like to read to keep producing books.  Which means they want them to sell books.  Which means they want people to know how good the books are so they’ll buy them.

That I’ve seen, writers give very balanced reviews.  Because they understand what it’s like to hand over your work to the world and watch it be torn apart.  They understand the author is a person and not just some nameless, faceless book-producing machine.

As for the idea that all other bad reviews are produced by grudge holders: what does that say about the person who believes they’re being attacked?  Do you really have that many people out there who dislike you that much?  What kind of person must one be to produce a slue of enemies that know exactly where to attack: in the reviews!  (Again, this is not to say this doesn’t legitimately happen.  John Scalzi certainly gets his share of attack reviews.  So does N.K. Jemisin.  As do people like Victoria Strauss and A. C. Crispin: Their exceptional work tracking down scam artists and people who take advantage of authors has made them quite a few enemies.)

So, in conclusion, I believe a lpt of this reviewing of the review comes from two places: a lack of business know-how and understanding of ethics, and from personal insecurities.  Understand how your behavior affects your career.  Let your work speak for itself.  If it’s good, it will generate a positive review to balance out that negative one all on its own.  If it doesn’t, be confident in your ability to learn and improve, don’t snap at those who reveal true flaws.

Reviews are mostly for readers, by readers.  And readers have no obligation to the author to spin their statements, or even go easy when they really believe in what they’re saying.  Their only obligation is to be honest.

A review might not be a discussion, but a blog post is.  What’s your take on all the recent commotion?

~Marina

71/100

How Twitter Can Make You Money

Or, alternatively, save you money. 

Since signing up for Twitter about six months ago, I have won three hard-copy books, and been given and/or alerted to over a dozen free e-books.  Total value: approximately $70.

I made seventy dollars just by following people and paying attention.

Now, I would have said saved $70 if I had intended to buy all of those books.  I’d actually intended to buy two of them, which still puts me at well over fifty dollars worth of merchandise I wouldn’t otherwise own.

Yes, a few of those books (e-books) were just free anyway.  But I didn’t have to go browsing for them.  I didn’t have to spend my time (which is quite often worth more than a free e-book to me) trying to find them.  They came to me.  I follow author’s I’m interested in reading (for various reasons).  And, conveniently, when they have books up for free, they tweet about it.  And I get alerted to a great deal without having to put much work into it.  All I have to do is check something I’d check anyways. 

So, what does this say about Twitter?

That it is a marvelous marketing tool.  When I get done reading through my free books there are some new books I will be buying.  Why?  Because I got to sample the author’s writing for free and I know I like it. 

Sure, on Amazon and other online retailers there’s typically a nice chunk of a book available for preview.  But again, I have to search for those books.  And I only get to sample the beginning–I don’t have the option of flipping to a random page like I do in the bookstore.  I have to spend time reading the preview, and then agonizing over whether or not it was really good enough for me to spend money on the rest.
Do I have to think about downloading a free book?  No.

Once I have purchased a book, I feel pressured to like it.  Because, damnit, I spent money.  And I’m frugal.  I’ve still got a poor college student’s spending mentality even though I’m currently comfortable in my finances.  I don’t like to waste money, and I agonize over purchasing anything I can’t qualify as a basic necessity.  And if I don’t like a book or don’t finish it, I’ve wasted my money. 

I don’t feel the same pressure when I read a free book.  Which means the experience is overall more enjoyable.  I’d even say I’m more apt to like a book if it’s free, because I don’t have to suffer during the slow parts wondering, “Will this be worth it?”

And I know I won’t feel guilty if I decided a free book isn’t worth it–my time, that is.  I’m ok with putting it down and moving on.  Not so when I’ve invested money as well as time:  I will often read at least a hundred pages past where I want to stop because I’m so eager for the author (and publisher) to earn the money I’ve given them.  So I invest more time, more willpower into continuing.  And if I get to the end and I still don’t like it…

It sticks with me.  And it’ll be a long while before I let go of my disappointment enough to buy from that author again.

Sad, but true.  It’s the way my mind works.  There are so many books out there for me to read that it’s one way I narrow down the list.  If an author takes my money and then disappoints me, he or she won’t be getting my money again for a good chunk of time.

Now, if it’s free, I don’t feel the pressure.  So I don’t sink in the extra time hoping for a payout.  So even if I don’t like the book, I’m not bitter towards the author when I move on. 

But if it’s free and I like it?  Then my good will abounds.  Hell, even if the next one disappoints the author might still get my money again–because I’ve already gotten a two-for-one.

Now, I do need to put some qualifiers in here.  I always read the books I’ve paid for before I get anywhere near freebies.  Why?  It’s that pressure thing again.  I spent money here, so I need to put my eyes on these pages rather than those

Also, my good will works best with short stories.  A good or even so-so short story can get me to buy a novel.  But an alright novel typically won’t get me to buy another novel, or another short story.  So free shorts work best with me.

Also, if it’s not just so-so, or boring, but bad (and I mean really bad)–I certainly won’t be spending any money there.  Will I peek at other free work from that author?  Perhaps, just to see if it’s as bad as the first thing I read.  But I’ve definitely got a three strikes and you’re out policy on free work.  I’ve got a one strike and you’re out policy on paid for work.

But, the overall point is that Twitter can help authors find readers and readers find authors, all through freebees.  For me it’s a wonderful win-win.

How about you?  As a reader, are you friendly towards free fiction?  Does it get you to spend money in the end?  As an author, do you think freebees are a valuable marketing tool?

~Marina

P.S. Alas, I did not win Q4 of WotF.  But there’s always next quarter.

69/100

Writers of the Future Q4: Finalists and Semis Announced

I’m so glad I can finally beak my silence.

Of course, I’ve been dropping not-so-subtle hints here and there, but now I can say it outright:

I’m a finalist again in the Writers of the Future contest!

And though I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, I’d really like to win.  And not just because of all the great rewards that come with winning, but because there are so many new writers and illustrators who have already won (and potentially could win–fellow finalists) that I’d like to meet.

Writing can be an awfully solitary profession at times (and don’t get me wrong, that’s one of the things I love about it), so there are rare opportunities, barring online communities, to make real connections with people who are going through the same things you are.  Online communities are wonderful–and the WotF forum is one of the best around–but sometimes they are poor substitutes for real life.

WotF provides a great professional environment in which to get to know people.  So I’m hoping I can go to the workshop and forge some solid connections.  

And those are strong words coming from and introvert like me.

And then, of course, I’d like to be published, and get paid, and get one-on-one lessons from the pros, and all that other good stuff.  Ah, wouldn’t it be nice?

Hey, I need to do a workshop this year, it’s one of my goals.  Why not the WotF workshop?

But, we’ll see.  My chickens haven’t hatched just yet. 

Congrats to all of the other finalists, and all of you who made semi, silver, and HM!  Keep writing, keep submitting–keep going!

~Marina

P.S.  Because this is a big announcement for me, this post counts as my Wednesday post.

Next Year’s Goals

Being sick sucks.

And I was sickest on Christmas.

Bah.  Humbug. 

But anywho…

A quick, concise list of next year’s goals:

*Write 2,000 words a week day or 10,000 words a week–even when editing and even when guests are over.

*Finish current novel based on my 2010 WotF finalist story.

*Finalize and submit MG novel.

*Attend one workshop and/or convention.

*Submit at least 10 new short stories.

Hopefully these goals are all easily accomplishable, yet push me to focus.

On other fronts, I guess I won’t have any real news until the New Year rolls around, so this is probably my last post of 2011.  Happy New Year everyone!

~Marina

67/100

%d bloggers like this: